Twenty-eight year-old Aisling Miles stood at her window, staring across the street. It was almost midnight and raining. A light mist more than actual rain, but enough that the usual half-dozen people who were out and about at that hour had retreated indoors. She’d showered earlier that night, planning on relaxing after a particularly stressful day at work. She’d finally been given the Donovan account, but no one had told her just how much of a pain in the ass Butler Donovan was. Every other statement out of the man’s mouth was innuendo.
Not that Aisling wasn’t used to it. Platinum blond hair and chocolate brown eyes, an athletic body with just enough curves to keep her figure from being boyish. She had fine features, and clear, peaches and cream skin. She was the girl other women hated and men wanted to fuck. Not a single one cared that she’d graduated valedictorian from her high school, then summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a marketing degree, or that her IQ was higher than half of the men managing the firm.
Aisling sighed. She’d thought about going to bed, maybe some light reading, but when she’d gone to pick out clothes to wear after her shower, she’d found only a pair of slightly worn boy shorts and a pale pink camisole that left very little to the imagination. So, instead of lying in bed, losing herself in a good book, she was going to go across the street and do her laundry. At midnight. In the rain. Wearing the only clean clothes that she owned.
“At least it’s still warm,” Aisling muttered. She pulled on a pair of sandals; she couldn’t quite bring herself to wear boots, not with what else she was wearing. She did, however, slide on her raincoat. Feeling very much like a badly written porn plot, she scowled at herself in the mirror. Now all she needed was a pizza delivery boy or someone offering to clean her pool. She shook her head and picked up her book from the table. Tucking it into the pocket of her coat, she grabbed her laundry and headed out.
She had her last load of laundry in the washer and was sixty pages into her book when the door opened. She stared, unsure if what had captured her attention was the sudden appearance or the fact that the guy was one of the best-looking men she’d ever seen. Tousled bronze curls, tall, athletic, kissable lips… and then he was looking at her. Eyes that could only be described as gunmetal gray traveled over her, and she remembered that she’d taken off her raincoat.
“Oh, shit.” She scrambled to get to it, heat flooding her cheeks.
The stranger averted his eyes as she pulled the coat back on. “A Kiss of Shadows?” He read the title off her book. “Figures.”
“Excuse me?” As she buttoned up the coat, her composure returned.
The stranger smirked, turning back towards her. “I guess you do look the type.” He crossed to the machines closest to Aisling. “I’m Cameron Long, by the way.”
“What do you mean, I look the type?” Aisling snapped as she returned to her seat.
Cameron began to load his clothes into an empty washer. “Girl alone on a Friday night reading some sort of torrid romance. Kind of cliché, don’t you think?”
“Oh really?” Aisling’s temper flared. “At least I know how to read.”
“That’s the best you’ve got?” Cameron’s eyes were sparkling as he turned. “Sorry, I’m actually a Laurell K. Hamilton fan.” Off Aisling’s skeptical look, he amended. “All right, not really. I just wanted to…”
“Insult my choice of reading material?” Aisling crossed her arms, suddenly very aware that what she was wearing under her raincoat barely classified as clothing, and the stranger named Cameron was looking at her as if he didn’t see the coat at all.
“I never got your name,” Cameron slid into the chair next to her.
“That’s because I didn’t offer it,” Aisling scowled. “Anyway, why should I care about your opinion of my reading habits? Your idea of a good book is probably Dr. Seuss.”
Cameron chuckled, a deep, male sound that made Aisling smile despite herself. “Come on, Seuss is quite the word master.” He glanced sideways at her. “But I prefer the more refined works of Hemingway and Milton. ‘For only in destroying I find ease / To my relentless thoughts.’”
“Both misogynists and one a drunk,” Aisling shifted slightly, giving herself a better view of the young man. “I can’t say I’m surprised.” She crossed her legs, flashing one well-toned limb.
Cameron’s eyes flicked down to her leg, then back up to her face. “And why is that?”
“You look like the type of guy who prefers his women silent,” Aisling pulled her hair out of her ponytail, letting the damp locks tumble out around her shoulders.
Cameron reached towards her, fingers skimming across her cheekbone as he pushed back a strand. “Oh, I don’t like silent women at all. I much prefer them screaming my name.”
She felt the color rising to her cheeks at the words and looked away, flustered. The skin on her cheek still burned where he’d touched her. She was used to guys hitting on her, but her body responding was a different story. Part of it was that it had been too long – way too long – since she’d gotten laid. Sure, she’d gotten herself off, but sometimes, it wasn’t about the orgasm. Sometimes it was about the touch. But that still didn’t totally explain why she didn’t excuse herself and go back home, clean clothes or no. Maybe some of it was the fact that he was good-looking, in that pretty-boy way, but she’d never been one to base attraction on looks alone. Or maybe, there was a part of her that liked the risque nature of what was happening, that was secretly wanting more.
“’How silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night, like softest music to attending ears.’”
Cameron’s voice cutting through the silence drew her back.
“That’s not Milton or Hemingway,” Aisling lifted her head. Two could play at this game. When she turned, he was closer than she’d thought, but she held her ground. “You think quoting Romeo & Juliet is going to score you points?”
“Aren’t they among the greatest lovers in literature?” Cameron reached for Aisling again.
She smacked his hand away. “They died. Hardly romantic in my opinion.” She stood and crossed to the washer where her clothes had stopped spinning.
“Besides, they were kind of idiots.”
She could feel his eyes on her as she transferred her clothes to a dryer. “First of all, Romeo had no clue what he really wanted. Any pretty face would do. And Juliet was a typical fourteen year-old, in love with the idea of love without understanding the reality behind it.” Ignoring the practical part of her that said this was a bad idea, she decided to push her luck. “Maybe if Romeo would’ve just gotten laid once in a while, the whole mess could’ve been avoided.” With her back still to Cameron, she surreptitiously unbuttoned her raincoat, a delightful little tingle running through her. Before she could over think it, she sauntered back to her seat, pretending to ignore the slight widening of Cameron’s eyes as her jacket swayed with her every step.
“You were talking about the reality of love,” it took Cameron a moment to respond, his gaze dropping from her face every few seconds. “But you’re reading a book about a faerie princess who has to take multiple lovers so she can win the race to get pregnant and inherit her aunt’s crown.”
Aisling raised an eyebrow, a smile playing on her lips. “You seem to know an awful lot about that book you’re mocking.”
A faint flush stained Cameron’s cheeks. “I didn’t say it wasn’t a guilty pleasure.”
“I believe that’s the other series,” Aisling grinned. “But do you want to know why I like Hamilton’s books?”
Cameron gestured for her to continue.
As she spoke, Aisling slowly slipped off her jacket, revealing just a bit more skin with every word. Her heart pounded in her ears and she could feel her entire body flushing. “Her women are strong and beautiful and know what they want. They love sex and aren’t portrayed as sluts for enjoying their bodies. She gives them equal footing as men.”
“How’s that?” His gray eyes darkened as he watched her, gaze devouring every inch of exposed skin, every curve hugged by the little she wore.